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Vegan Recipe – Spicy Eggplant Tofu

Eric and I recently tried a Thai restaurant that’s walking distance from our place.  I ordered a yellow curry with tofu entree the first time, which was your typical yummy curry.  The second time, though, I felt adventurous and ordered the Spicy Eggplant and Tofu dish.  I’m so glad I did because it was fantastic.  The crispy sides of the tofu cubes combined with the soft eggplant were perfect.  After ordering it a couple of times, I thought I might try my hand at making it.  I’ve already been successful in making the best Kung Pao ever, why not Spicy Eggplant Tofu?

Spicy Eggplant Tofu | A Vegan in Progress

I turned to my favorite recipe search engine, Pinterest, and found this blog post from Made Weekly.  I wouldn’t call it a recipe, it was more like a meal guideline.  I love the way she took the photo of the ingredients.  The photo and the simplicity of the meal over the other ones I found were what made me go with this particular one.

This was a complete hit.  Because I added a little extra cornstarch, the sauce was thicker and a little sticky.  It even looked sort of restaurant-quality.  It was super flavorful and filling and went perfectly with cauliflower rice.  Eric, my resident non-vegan loved it and looked really sad when I said there wasn’t much more.  When planning our dinners for next week, I asked if he would like it again and got an enthusiastic affirmative.

Below is my adapted version of the Made Weekly Eggplant Tofu Stir Fry.  There weren’t any measurements, and I threw it together without really measuring, so these are mostly estimates.  I was out of miso, basil, and ginger, so I went without and it was still great.  This made enough for two large servings, with a little bit left over.  Next time I would likely double it for more delicious, delicious leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of firm tofu, pressed and cubed (My mom recommended popping it in the freezer for half an hour to an hour before slicing it and it really does hold its shape in the pan better that way.)
  • 1 eggplant, cubed (I had never cooked with eggplant before and didn’t know how to approach it.  I don’t know what I was worrying about, because I just cut the ends off, cut it in half, and cubed the rest with no problem.)
  • Approximately 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • Approximately 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (Use only 1 Tablespoon if you want a thinner sauce.)
  • Approximately 1/3 cup sesame oil (This is totally optional and not mentioned in the Made Weekly post.  I just didn’t have any miso, which I knew was a major flavor contributor for this dish, so I used some sesame oil, but didn’t want to overpower the meal, so I also used grapeseed oil.)
  • Approximately 1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or any basic cooking oil)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • Approximately 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • Some red pepper flakes if you like it spicy
  • Miso to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • Basil to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • Ginger to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • About 1/2 a head of cauliflower for cauliflower rice

Directions:

  • First, soak the eggplant in salt water for about an hour to reduce bitterness (a trick from my sister, Alli.
  • Drain, press, freeze, and cube tofu (see above for why I recommend freezing it for a bit).  Heat cooking oil with a little sesame oil for flavor.  Add tofu cubes to the oil and drizzle liquid smoke lightly over all of the tofu cubes.  This is my tofu trick.  It smells amazing and makes the tofu a really interesting addition to the meal, rather than a bland hunk of protein.  Stir it continuously so it doesn’t burn until the tofu is brown and crispy, then set aside.
  • Whisk together garlic, miso (if you’re using it), soy sauce or tamari, vinegar, a splash of water, and cornstarch.
  • Fry eggplant, ginger (if you’re using it), and garlic in oil (I used the same oil from cooking the tofu) until it begins to soften.  Add soy/tamari sauce mixture and stir until sauce thickens and eggplant is fully cooked (it will look yellowy-brown rather than white).
  • While the eggplant is cooking, chop your 1/2 head of cauliflower into floret-sized chunks so that the food processor will be able to handle it.  Pulse the food processor until the cauliflower bits are about rice or bulgar-sized.  Place cauliflower into a microwave safe container with a lid.  DO NOT ADD WATER.  Pop one corner of the container so that steam can escape.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until it’s all warm enough to eat.
  • Add tofu and toss it all together.  Mix in red pepper flakes (or allow each diner to add it at their discretion, as we have to do it in my house) and basil.
  • Eat your seriously delicious meal!

Wheel of Life Restaurant, Irvine

Eric and I met up with some  of his family in Orange County a couple of weeks back.  I had Yelped ahead of time and suggested Wheel of Life Restaurant in Irvine.  Their menu is 100% vegan, which makes ordering completely stress-free.

Overall, I would rate it a B+.  The focus seemed to be on traditional Thai dishes that were veganized, with most dishes including some kind of meat replacement.

They serve family style, so we got to try a number of dishes.

First, we tried the Thai Spring Rolls and Golden Papi Wraps.  The spring rolls were pretty basic, but the Golden Papi Wraps were awesome.  They were like Thai Samosas.  They were my favorites of the evening and I would definitely order them again.  The only disappointing aspect was the serving size.  The pictures in the menu show just three spring rolls, but I figured we would get more in actuality.  No such luck.  Three measly spring rolls for $6.

Next, Orange “Chicken” and “Chicken” Fried Rice.  I never ate a lot of fried rice and I never really cared for orange chicken in my pre-vegan days, so I’m not a great judge of these dishes.  I thought they both tasted fine, but I wouldn’t order them again.  Eric really liked them, however.

Eric’s a big fan of Satay, so we got an order of that as well as an order of Pad Thai “Chicken.”  The Satay was pretty decent, texture-wise.  It was just a little spongy, but the outer texture was a little tougher.  The Pad Thai was very good.  It seems like that dish is always well done when veganized.

I also got an order of Cashew “Chicken,” which was very tasty, but not spicy enough for my liking.  Sorry for the blurry photo.

Wheel of Life - Cashew "Chicken" | A Vegan in Progress

Cashew “Chicken”

Eric loved the meal and wished that it were closer so we could frequent it.  However, I preferred VegiLicious in Huntington Beach and would choose to eat there if I were in the area.

Most importantly, it was nice visiting with family.  This is me and our youngest niece, Olivia.  She’s a smart little handful.

Little Miss Olivia

Little Miss Olivia

Vegan at Sawasdee, Simi Valley

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My family is lucky enough to have the quality Thai food restaurant, Sawasdee, in their area.  When ordering a meal for all of us, it’s often our go-to because omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can all find something that makes them happy.  It’s a small place in a strip mall; pleasant to dine in and easy to get take out from.

Sawasdee, Simi Valley | A Vegan in Progress

I’m a creature of habit, so I almost always order the same thing.  You can opt for tofu instead of any other protein, but you MUST ask for everything you order to be cooked “without fish sauce”.

This is the Spicy Tofu Cashew Nut dish.  It comes with onions, carrots, water chestnuts, and cashews.  I ordered it with brown rice.  It’s lots of food and I always end up stuffed because it tastes so good that I don’t want to stop eating.

Tofu Cashew Nuts - Sawasdee | A Vegan in Progress

Pad Thai - Sawasdee | A Vegan in ProgressI have tried their Pad Thai many times and it is very tasty.  I don’t even particularly like Pad Thai.  Make sure to order it without fish sauce or egg.

I’m positive we will eat at Sawasdee again.  For a city that doesn’t have a lot of vegan options, this is a good restaurant to try.

Vegan at Mae Ploy, Silverlake, Los Angeles – Post 2

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I have already talked about Mae Ploy, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Mae Ploy.

Last time I tried the popular Garlic Pepper Tofu.  This time around, I decided to try their Spicy Tofu.

Spicy Tofu - Mae Ploy | A Vegan in Progress

It was appropriately spicy, but not as flavorful as the Garlic Pepper Tofu.  I enjoyed it, but preferred the Garlic version.  It had more veggies in it than the Garlic Pepper Tofu, but that wasn’t saying much.

A note about their service… we ordered our food, waited the 30 minutes, plus another 15 before heading over to pick it up.  It then took more than 20 minutes to get the food.  I don’t believe they made it until we arrived to pick it up.  Just a word of warning, maybe call them before picking it up to confirm that it is actually ready.

I also snagged a menu so that I could include a picture of the vegetarian menu since I can’t seem to find their official website.

Mae Ploy vegetarian menu | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan at Mae Ploy, Silverlake, Los Angeles

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Mae Ploy is very close to Mohawk Bend, in the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake.  Like I said before, my husband grew up in the area and doesn’t remember it being a nightlife and cafe hub – it was a bit more unsavory back then.  However, the Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods are getting better and better, even in the 10 years that we’ve been together.  We have ordered Mae Ploy quite a few times for dinner with his family, but I this was my first time eating their food as a vegan.

It was Eric’s mom’s birthday and she had picked up Chinese food for everyone and didn’t want me just eating white rice and soy sauce.  She insisted that we pick up something for me on the way, so Eric yelped vegan places while I drove.  He stumbled on yelp posts for Mae Ploy mentioning their vegan options.  He tried to find a menu, but it doesn’t seem like they have much of an internet presence.  I have since found this one, but what I ordered isn’t even listed, so it must not be current.  I suggest going in person or calling them and asking all the annoying questions necessary to get what you want.  I went by the yelp suggestions and just ordered what vegan reviewers enjoyed.

Since I was ordering food from a Thai restaurant, I figured, why not try the vegan Pad Thai with Tofu.  It was very tasty and the tofu was broken up-kind of resembling the bits of egg found in non-vegan pad thai, rather than in big tofu cubes.

Mae Ploy - Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu

My favorite of the evening was the Garlic Pepper Tofu.  I have never had tofu flavored that well!  It was delicious, but there were just a couple of tiny slivers of carrot.  For a vegan meal, I would have liked a lot more veggies.  It came with rice and was a plenty big meal.  I didn’t really need to order the Pad Thai, so we had a lot of leftovers.

Mae Ploy - Garlic Pepper Tofu | A Vegan in Progress

Garlic Pepper Tofu – get it!

I also had their Vegetable Spring Rolls, which were crispy and good, but just yer average spring roll.

There are a lot of vegan places to patronize in this part of LA, but if you’re looking for a good place for vegans and carnists alike, check out Mae Ploy!